Human response to a changing industry: Part 3

Part two of this report was posted at


Diversifying in, diversifying out

When we talk about diversification, there are two main types. The first is diversification within the industry. This is where a professional branches into services that are complimentary or in addition to the services they already offer. The other kind of diversification is "diversifying out", where a professional leaves (or starts to leave) the industry completely.

You could say that diversification within the industry benefits everyone, or everyone in the industry at least.

Diversifying out, if in large numbers and left unchecked, is more likely to be harmful. One could argue that the diversifying out we are talking about is just the natural turnover we might expect in any business. If that is the case, is it higher or lower than in other industries? Is it something to be worried about?

All together, more than half of the translators and interpreters asked were either considering some form of diversification within the industry, had already diversified, or had left or were considering leaving the industry completely.

How does this break down?


First, there is an interesting flux of some interpreters moving more into translation, while some translators move more into interpreting. For some interpreters, with remote interpreting on the rise, the work is losing some of its appeal, and many interpreters seem to be struggling with the limitations of not being on site. Also, as remote interpreting increases, they may become more office-bound and take up more translation work to fill in the gaps between assignments. For translators, remote interpreting opens a new set of possibilities they can take advantage of between translations, without needing to leave their workstations. So it might be reasonable to assume that, if this continues, the pools of translators-who-also-interpret, and interpreters-who-also-translate, will continue to grow and eventually merge.


Group two: diversifying out


“I stopped working as a translator two months ago as a direct result of the massive amount of P-E jobs I was receiving.”



Now on to translators and interpreters who are "diversifying out"-- that is, who are leaving the industry completely. There has actually been some decline in this trend over the past several years. In 2012, 27% said they were diversifying out of the industry, and 15% were considering doing so. As of 2019, between those leaving and those who say they are planning to leave, we are down to just under 21%.

For those who are leaving, when asked why they are considering making or have already made the change, the top two reasons were "Difficulty in making a living in the profession" and "Uncertainty about the future of the profession". Less than four percent cited technological or other advances in the industry as a reason specifically, though if you begin to dig you see that these are rolled into the economic pressures and uncertainties that not a small number of translators and interpreters are experiencing.

What about the 45% translators and interpreters who are not considering any sort of change of profession at the moment? Is there something that would change their minds?


“It drove me to reconsider my career choices.”


Increasing downward pressure on rates was by far the most frequently cited reason. This was followed by increasing expectations of the use, or use of MT by clients-- not to be confused with a translator using MT on their own at their discretion. Increasing automation was another trend some found disagreeable, along with the competition caused by younger generations of language professionals, who may take more readily to recent changes in the industry, since for them they are a given.


Group three: diversifying in

The third segment in this human response to changes in the industry is diversifying and specializing in ways that allow them to deal with the machines more on their own terms, so to speak. Some are setting themselves up in areas like transcreation, or in content creation.


And many are going after direct clients.


Possibly in search of the personal in an increasingly depersonalized environment, many translators are going after direct clients, or trying to. And direct clients may be going after them. When asked, 58% of translators say they work with at least one end client. A much smaller percentage, around 4%, work exclusively with end clients. Both groups note that the number of end clients who come to them for work has increased in recent years. But only 22% of them say they actively sought out those new clients, which would seem to indicate that the search for the direct client - translator connection is going both ways.



“I will soon be following the lead of other translators who now present themselves as bilingual content providers or bilingual marketers who help craft an original text on the basis of the ST (i.e. transcreation).”



Translators noted that direct clients are coming to the table better-versed in both technical aspects and in translation, and with clearer instructions and expectations for what they want. Some hire their own in-house project managers to coordinate with their freelancers.

One translator shared her experience in working with direct clients in Agile localization projects. In-house coordinators, often pulled from project managers in the language industry, manage smaller teams of translators over longer periods of time. Greater initial overhead decreases and gets absorbed over time as the team matures, and translators often have a more direct line to the developers, which can make it easier to coordinate on obstacles in translation which can be resolved by the developers.

The same translator also shared her experience with another direct client who decided to experiment with the process start to finish, recruiting their own freelance translators and managing the projects on their own, to positive results so far.



“I’m now marketing myself more to direct clients who are disappointed with agencies and PEMT and offer them high quality human translations. This has given my business a real boost!”



Those who are actively courting direct clients are becoming more specialized to do so, and are focusing on providing a higher level of customer service, consulting, and a "personal touch" in their attention to these clients. The working relation often resembles more of a partnership than in a traditional company - freelancer arrangement. Being able to invest the time to better understand the client's business, people, and needs helps the translator provide better translation services. This and the generally better pay involved are the most frequent benefits cited by translators making contact with these clients.



Part 4 of this report can be found at


In part 4 of this report we will finish our look at the human response: how translators and interpreters are adapting, and get a glimpse of what the outlook for the future is.



This report was originally published in its entirety as a state of the industry report. members can see this and previous reports at



Topics: language services industry

Jared Tabor

Written by Jared Tabor

Jared oversees Member services at An ex-language teacher, he has lived and worked in Argentina since 1996. He has been with through the La Plata office since 2007. You can follow him on Twitter, @taboredinc .

Subscribe to Email Updates

    Lists by Topic

    see all

    Posts by Topic

    see all

    Listen to the Podcast


    Recent Posts